Around the Blog #1

Hello and welcome to the first post of my new feature!

Around the Blog is a weekly post that will feature my top five posts I’ve read during that week. It’s my way of appreciating other bloggers’ content and to share the love for the chosen posts and bloggers with my followers in the hope they’ll love them as much as I do.

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So, without further ado, here are the five blog posts I’ve enjoyed the most this week.

1. Discussion Time: How Do You Manage Your Expectations for Hyped Books? by Beth@Reading Every Night. This is a great discussion post on hyped books and how to deal with the expectations that come with them. Beth shares her own experience with hyped books and also gives her readers some tips and tricks how to manage the expectations.

2. The Reader’s Guide to Audiobooks & Audible by Sarah@WrittenWordWorlds. I’ve been meaning to get into audiobooks ever since I’ve listened to Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them (narrated by Eddie Redmayne!) so this was the perfect post for me.

3. Young Adult Contemporaries & Their Failure to Represent the High School Experience by A.J.@LacyLiterary. This is a wonderful post on how YA authors could improve their contemporaries by making the high school experience as realistic as possible. I agree with her; I’d like to see more books where teenagers spend a lot of time in school, worry about exams, get frustrated with group projects, try to deal with the pressure of exams, extracurricular activities, hobbies, etc.

4. Is There Pressure to be a Creative Book Blogger by Mikaela@TheWell-ThumbedReader. I’m a big fan of Mikaela’s discussion posts because they’re always very relatable and relevant. This one is no exception. If you’ve been blogging for a while, I’m sure you’ve felt the pressure of writing highly original posts. In her discussion post, Mikaele talks pros and cons of creativity AND uncreativity.

5. My Book Blogger Bucket List by Marie@Drizzle&HurricaneBooks. Speaking of being original, check out this post my Marie! She talks about all her goals and dreams as a book blogger (YES to being quoted in a book and going to all the bookish events!) which makes for an interesting and fun read. I haven’t seen a post like hers, so make sure to read it.

That’s it for this week. I hope you’ll check out these posts and show them some love ❤

Until next week!

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Why I’ll Never DNF an (e-)ARC

Today I want to talk about a controversial topic: DNF’ing an (e-)ARC. If you don’t know, DNF stands for Did Not Finish. Basically, you start a book and you don’t finish it because you really don’t like it and you don’t see the point of reading on. An (e-)ARC is an (Electronic) Advanced Reading Copy, either in physical or digital form.

Why is it controversial? Because (e-)ARC’s are books you receive from the publisher for free, ahead of publication, and in exchange for your honest opinion. Publishers have a limited amount of ARC’s they give out to bloggers, influencers, people in the industry, etc. which means they can’t give them to just about anyone. It also costs them money because they’re not getting money in return.

This is exactly the reason why I’ll never DNF an ARC, no matter how bad I think it is. The publisher gave me a wonderful opportunity to read a book in advance (which, let’s face it, is every book worm’s dream) and I’d feel too guilty and bad for the publisher to tell them I DNF’d. [Note: this doesn’t mean I’m scared of giving the book a bad review. I have no problem with giving a low rating because that’s exactly why they gave you a copy.]

The second reason is that I’m an eternal optimist when it comes to reading books. There’s a part of me that believes EVERY book has something good. I might hate the plot and the main characters, but that one minor character is lovely. I might hate the author’s writing style, but I do like the themes she / he tried to explore. There’s always something. And if I DNF, I tell myself I might be missing out on that one good thing.

Now, this doesn’t mean I judge someone who DNF’s an ARC. Not at all, actually. This is all just my personal opinion. Also, I’m just starting out with (e-)ARCs so it’s hard to compare myself with bloggers who get a lot of them. I mean, I can understand that the decision to DNF is a lot easier to make when you’ve got dozens of books to read and have deadlines for all of them.

Having said that, there’s one thing I think is wrong and that’s asking for a bunch of ARCs you know you either can’t read in time or you know aren’t for you. I think you should always respect the publishers and authors involved, recognise the amazing opportunity you’re given, and only ask for ARCs you genuinely interest you and you’ll be able to finish in time.

What do you think? Would you / have you ever DNF’d an (e-) ARC? For what reason? Let me know in the comments!

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[e-ARC]Review: On the Spectrum by Jennifer Gold

**Thank you to Second Story Press, who provided me with an e-ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

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Details & Summary:

Title: On the Spectrum
Author: Jennifer Gold
Publisher: Second Story Press
Release Date: September 12th 2017
Pages: 336

Growing up in the shadow of a famous mother, Clara has never felt good about her body. Now, at sixteen, she has an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. After a social media disaster, she decides to escape for the summer to Paris to stay with her estranged dad and her six-year-old brother, Alastair, who is on the autism spectrum. Charged with his care, Clara and Alastair set out to explore the city. Paris teaches Clara about first love and gives her a new love of food. And Alastair teaches Clara about patience, trust and the beauty of loving without judgment.

My Thoughts

I requested this book for two reasons: one, because it features a character with orthorexia and one who’s on the autism spectrum and I wondered how the author had dealt with these difficult subjects and, two, because it hinted at a romance in Paris. Who doesn’t love a romance in Paris? Apparently, me. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed reading this book, but the romance was the weakest part of the book.  

When Clara is the subject of a Twitter scandal, she moves to Paris to live with her dad, his new wife (Meg), and her little brother, Alistair. Alistair is “on the spectrum” and she has a hard time adjusting to him. In the beginning, Clara gets frustrated with his inability to understand jokes, his bluntness, and his “odd” behaviour. I’ve never read a book with an autistic character (or someone who’s on the spectrum) nor do I know a lot about it, so it’s hard for me to judge the representation. Having said that, I had the feeling Alistair was a bit too stereotypical. He had all the “characteristics” you’ll find when doing a Google search. As a result, he sometimes felt more like a walking representation of what we all expect autism to look like rather than presenting us with the reality. As I’ve said, I’m no expert whatsoever so I could be wrong. I’m just saying the representation felt “off” sometimes, but (to my knowledge) isn’t hurtful.

The same thing could be said about Clara and the representation of orthorexia. I have more knowledge on this subject, so I feel better reviewing this one. First off, I want to say I’m glad orthorexia is the attention it deserves. There are plenty of books on all eating disorders, but not on orthorexia, which often isn’t considered to be one. Like Clara in the book, many people think there’s nothing wrong with eating healthy, but they couldn’t be further from the truth. Orthorexia is just as dangerous when eating healthy becomes an obsession, as it did for Clara. Gold did a good job of showing just how obsessive you can get when you’re suffering from this disorder through Clara’s thoughts. She’s constantly worried about the health benefits of certain foods, she judges other people for their choices, she can’t / is afraid to eat “forbidden” foods, etc.

Having said that, I wasn’t totally convinced orthorexia was “the right choice”. Clara’s mum is a famous dancer and struggles with an eating disorder herself. From the age of four, Clara is basically told never “to get fat”. Throughout the book, Clara is also more occupied with being skinny (e.g. she’s desperate to have a thigh gap) rather than being healthy. Anorexia and not orthorexia would, therefore, have been a much more “logical” choice. Again, I could be wrong, but Gold never explored the reasons behind Clara’s eating disorder. Everyone wanted to cure Clara, but very little time was spent trying to solve the underlying issues. This is crucial for recovery, which is why I was really disappointed to see it wasn’t addressed at all.

The romance was another disappointment for me. To be honest, it was completely rushed and unnecessary. Clara and Michel meet, they talk for a bit, and suddenly they’re going on a date, and they’re kissing. Gold just didn’t spend enough time on their connection or the development of their relationship which made their romance unbelievable and, frankly, a case of insta-love.

Lastly, the pacing of the story could’ve been better. The beginning is rather slow and the ending is rushed. In the last twenty to thirty pages, everything goes wrong, is promptly fixed, and then it ends.

I believe Gold wanted to present the reader with a thoughtful exploration of autism and orthorexia, but, in the end, On The Spectrum fell short due to an unnecessary romance subplot, bad pacing, and a lack of depth. However, I admire Jennifer Gold for tackling difficult subject matters and trying to give them the attention they deserve. As such, I recommend it to people who know very little about what orthorexia looks like in the hope they might learn from it and recognise the behaviour when they see it.  

Rating

5 Books I’d Want on a Desert Island

Choosing which books and, more importantly, how many to take with me on holiday is probably the hardest thing about packing my suitcase (#bookwormproblems). Especially when I’m only taking ONE small suitcase that’s supposed to fit in the overhead compartment. Now, if I put in all my clothes, shoes, and essentials, there’s not a whole lot of room for books. Which means I’m going to have to make a decision: I’ll have to leave some home.

This got me thinking. What if someone told me I was going to a desert island and I was only allowed to bring 5 books? I thought it would be fun for you to see which ones I’d choose, so here are my answers.

First of all, let’s get one thing straight. I hate myself for doing this because it’s nearly impossible. I can’t even take all the Harry Potters and to separate them is, like, committing a crime or something. In which case I’m a criminal because I’m going to. (Sorry, not sorry!)

Here are the five books I’d take with me…

  1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling: if I HAD to choose, I’d choose the Prisoner of Azkaban to take with me. Why? I’m not sure. I’m not saying this is my favourite Harry Potter book (I’m not sure which ones is) but it is my favourite movie out of all of them. I’m thinking if I read this one, it would be easy to picture the movie in my head so I get to enjoy both book and movie and the same time. Clever, no?
  2. History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera: this one doesn’t need any explanation. You all know this is one of my favourite YA books of all time, so there was no doubt in my mind I HAD to take it with me on a desert island.
  3. Looking for Alaska by John Green: John is one of my favourite authors and Looking for Alaska is what got me into reading (and writing!) contemporary YA so there’s no way I’m leaving this one behind.
  4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: if I’m stuck on a desert island, I’m going to need me some Mr Darcy. Enough said.
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: it’s a timeless classic that everyone should read at least once in their life. Scout is a real gem (see what I did there? no?) which makes for a very entertaining narrator.

Honourable mentions: 

  1. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  2. We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
  3. Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Do you like my choices? Which books would you take?

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Update: Going on Holiday & New Blog Schedule

Hello!

I hope everyone is having a nice and relaxed Sunday. I’d like to say I’ve been having a nice and relaxed day too but then I’d be lying. To be honest, I’m having a very busy day. I’m leaving on holiday tomorrow and, this morning, I hadn’t packed yet (still haven’t), I had 4 posts scheduled and 0 written (whoops), and I really wanted to work on the outline for my WIP. Basically, I have a lot of things to do and hardly any time to do it.

But I’m writing this a little after lunch and I’m making good progress. I might not have packed a single piece of clothing yet, but at least all my blog posts are written, scheduled, and ready to go. It’s all about getting your priorities straight, am I right?

Before I tick off item #4863 on my lists of things I have to do today, I thought I’d take a little break and give you an update. Well, several updates, actually.

Going on holiday

As you’ve probably gathered by now, I’m leaving on holiday tomorrow. This means that, while I’ll do my best to keep posting regularly, it’s possible I won’t be very active in the community for the next two weeks. I don’t know what my internet connection is going to be like, when I’ll be able to comment, etc. So, I apologise in advance for being late to respond or being absent in general.

New Posting Schedule

As I was thinking about blogging posts for the next two weeks, I realised I wanted to change my posting schedule just a little bit. I don’t know if you know this, but I usually post on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. But, since I’ve noticed Friday is not to best day to post, I’m changing things up. I’ll now post on Sundays instead. I’m also going to (try and) stick to a certain type of post depending on the day. Sound confusing? Here’s what I mean.

  • Monday: Bookish / Blogging Post (e.g. my favourite books for the fall, things book worms struggle with, etc.)
  • Tuesday: While the people behind Top Ten Tuesday are on hiatus I’m reserving this day for reviews
  • Thursday: Infinity Talks (my discussion posts) OR tags/awards 
  • Sunday: Around the Blog

Around the Blog is a new feature I’m starting next week. It’s going to be a round-up post of all the blog posts I’ve read and enjoyed that week. It’s my way of promoting other bloggers’ content and sharing the love.

Note: this schedule isn’t set in stone. At the end of the month, I’ll still be doing Monthly Wrap-Ups, no matter what the schedule says. For example, I’ll be posting my July Wrap-Up on Monday 31st (instead of a bookish post). Same goes for Monthly TBRs.

I hope you’re all okay with this.

It’s time for me to pack now so I have to go, but I won’t go off the radar completely. Even if I can’t comment back all the time, I’ll probably still lurk around the blogosphere 😉

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Review: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

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Details & Summary

Title: Words in Deep Blue
Author: Cath Crowley
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Release Date: June 6th 2017
Pages: 273

Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came.
Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction, and the escape. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore. She can’t see her future.
Henry’s future isn’t looking too promising, either. His girlfriend dumped him. The bookstore is slipping away. And his family is breaking apart.
As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.

My Thoughts…

We all have those books we hope are as good as the blurb and the raving reviews suggest. It’s a real bummer when it doesn’t quite deliver, but when it does…it’s pure magic. That’s what Word in Deep Blue was for me. Pure magic. The words. The characters. The relationships. The many, many book references. It was all perfect, making this one of my all-time favourite contemporary YA books.

First, a quote because there are so many good ones.

“(…) before you say it words do matter. They’re not pointless. If they were pointless then they couldn’t start revolutions and they wouldn’t change history and they wouldn’t be the things that you think about every night before you go to sleep. If they were just words we wouldn’t listen to songs, we wouldn’t beg to be read to when we’re kids. If they were just words, then they’d have no meaning and stories wouldn’t have been around since before humans could write. We wouldn’t have learned to write. If they were just words then people wouldn’t fall in love because of them, feel bad because of them, ache because of them, stop aching because of them, have sex, quite a lot of the time, because of them.”

Okay, let’s start with the characters. Words in Deep Blue is one of those rare books where every character is well-developed, relatable and, above all, realistic. Often, authors who write about characters who’re book worms forget that those characters are also supposed to be regular teenagers and not merely a way to get their readers to recognize the importance of reading or to deliver a message. Crowley didn’t forget. While nearly every character in the book is well-read, they’re never preachy, “quirky” or pretentious. They’re teenagers with faults who mess up, keep secrets, and make mistakes. Henry, for example, pines after a girl who doesn’t appreciate his love.

“Amy doesn’t love you.”
George says it gently–like she’s sympathetically sticking a piece of glass straight through my left eye.”

Honestly, I wanted to throw a book at Henry’s head most of the time for pining after Amy…but I still love him. What I love about him (aside from him being a genuinely nice guy who’s passionate about love, life, and books) is that he’s not afraid to tell and show everyone how he’s feeling. And not just about Amy. When Rachel comes back into his life and she’s being rude and distant, he asks her how it’s possible she hasn’t missed him. He doesn’t sulk or brood or think about asking that question (or worries about the answer). He just flat-out asks her, thereby showing her she hurt him. I thought that was beautiful because not many male characters are open about their feelings and I’d love to see more characters like him. He’s also funny and dramatic (in a funny way), which is a huge bonus.

“How do you feel?” Lola asks.
“Like I’ve just had every single one of my organs harvested while I’m still alive.”       “Good to know you’re not overreacting,” she says.

Rachel on the other hand is very different from Henry. She doesn’t share her feelings but chooses to hide them. She keeps a very important secret from Henry (and the others) for most of the book. While I understand why she does so, it also frustrated me. If she’d told Henry sooner, he would’ve understood her (rude) behaviour and a lot of complications could’ve been avoided. But, alas, things are not that easy.

And then there are all the side characters. I can’t remember the last book where I loved every single one of them. Every. Single. One. Rachel’s aunt, Henry’s parents, Lola, Frederick and Frieda, Cal, Martin … And don’t even get me started on George. She’s Henry’s “freak” sister who’s also well-read and funny but hesitant to open up because she’s bullied in school. She’s in love with a boy she’s been writing letters to (I can’t say who because of spoilers) and it gets complicated, but she remains wonderful throughout the book. She’s my favourite by far (aside from Henry maybe) and I wish Crowley would write a spin-off about her.

Lastly, I want to talk about a big part of this story which was (obviously) the books. More specifically, the Howling Books book store and the Letter Library. I love the concept of the Letter Library. People leaving notes and letters for each other is such a different way of communicating because I think it’s very personal (not to mention the potential for it to be really romantic). You don’t just leave random notes or annotate books for just anyone. It always means something (as shown by the snippets that were included in the book) and I love that.

“There are so many people in the Library, so many people who’ve left parts of themselves on the pages over the years”

Crowley did a wonderful job of describing the books store, making me wish there was a place just like it that I could visit in real life.

I also enjoyed the many, many references. Yes, a lot of classics were mentioned but a few contemporaries were mentioned too. George leaves letters in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars was mentioned a couple of times. I love that because it shows you don’t have to read nothing but classics all the time.

Words in Deep Blue is what dreams are made of. It’s one of those books that inspires me to read more, makes me proud to be part of the book community, and has made me appreciate the life I get to live. The writing is beautiful, the plot is engaging and by the end of it, you wish you could be friends with the characters and live in their world. I’m not one for rereading books over and over again, but I already know this will be an exception and I’ll find myself rereading my favourite passages.

“Love of the things that make you happy is steady too–books, words, music, art–these are lights that reappear in a broken universe.”

Rating

Waiting on Wednesday #4: He’s back!

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re all excited about! This week I’m waiting for…..

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Title: Turtles All the Way Down
Author: John Green
Release Date: October, 10th 2017
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers (Penguin)
Pages: ?

It all begins with a fugitive billionaire and the promise of a cash reward.
Turtles All the Way Down is about lifelong friendship, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, Star Wars fan fiction, and tuatara. But at its heart is Aza Holmes, a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

Why am I waiting?

This is the best bookish news I’ve heard this year and also my most anticipated read for 2017. I can’t believe I’ll get to read a new John Green in less than three months after FIVE years of waiting. I knew he was writing again because he’s mentioned it several times on “the pod”* and in his YouTube video’s** but I had absolutely no idea it would be published so soon. So it was actually a BIG surprise when he announced it.

Having said that, I’m scared because there’s a lot of hype surrounding this book. There are a lot of expectations and there’s a lot of pressure for this to be good. John actually admitted being really scared of the reactions because it’s his most personal book (for those of you who don’t know, John Green also has OCD, like the MC, and social anxiety). So, yes, I’m scared and nervous that it won’t be as good as I’m imagining it to be. I’m worried it won’t live up to the expectations, but I’ll try not to think about it too much and treat Turtles All the Way Down like any other book.

I hope you’ll read it too so we can share our thoughts.  I know John isn’t the most popular in the blogging community, but even if you didn’t love his previous books, I think you should give this one a chance. It’s been five years after all.

On an unrelated note: did you know he’s signing 200.000+ copies? If you live in the US and Canada (as an international book blogger I’m so jealous!) , here’s information on how to get your hands on a signed copy!

*Dear Hank and John (or as John prefers to think of it, Dear John and Hank). It’s a comedy podcast about death where Hank and his brother John answer all your questions, give dubious advice, and give you all the week’s news on both Mars and AFC Wimbledon.

**Vlogbrothers, Hank and John Green’s YouTube channel

Are you excited about Turtles All the Way Down? What are you waiting for this Wednesday?

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